Auditor General questions dubious financial practices at LMPS

Nothing is done about adverse audits: critics

LAWRENCE KEKETSO

MASERU –The Ministry of Police and Public Safety is under the spotlight as one of the front-runners in gross irregularities, misstatements and undermining public finance management guidelines, according to the 2016/17 report of the Auditor General.

Chief among the concerns of the auditors was the transfer of M25 735,534 from the ministry’s recurrent expenditure for the 2015/16 to a newly opened account at First National Bank to cater for tenders issued late in the year and would therefore not meet deadlines for the closure of the financial year.

“Transfer of funds from recurrent expenditure to this bank account contravened Section 31 (a to c) of the Treasury Regulations, 2014,” the Auditor General states, while also stressing that the authorisation given by the Accountant General for the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) to open this bank account was irregular as it facilitated a violation of the set laws.

The Auditor General also points at irregularities in the procurement of goods and services at the LMPS, citing amongst others an incident in the 2015/2016 financial year where goods that were not received were signed for in the delivery note as though they had been supplied. This involved supply of canned beef and fish amounting to M524,520 and M364 560 respectively while documentation only shows less than half the supply was delivered.

“Signing the delivery note for goods not actually received may lead to loss of public funds as such items might end up not being delivered especially because the supplier was fully paid and an organisation agreed to have received all the items. “Officers might also take advantage of poor controls and that could lead to misuse and or misrepresentation of government resources,” warned the Auditor General, further advising that deeper scrutiny of accounting records be made to verify that payments are made for goods actually received or services rendered.

The Auditor General’s report further reveals that contrary to good procurement procedures where documents supporting transactions should always tally, it was not the practice at the LMPS, citing an example that goods requested and ordered on January 27, 2016 did not tally with the related invoice raised on 15 March in the same year, saying an amount of M74 517.36 was paid for that invoice raised for goods not ordered.

The audit findings also reveal that a signature that appeared on another invoice issued for the stationery supplied to LMPS was similar to that of the procurement officer at the police headquarters, bringing into question the authenticity of the presented documents, claiming good financial management of the affairs of the police.Also highlighted in the report as a wasteful and irregular practice was the questionable awarding of a tender for the supply of a DNA profiling system to the amount of M3 757,486 which was awarded to a company that appeared third in the tender evaluation, without any evidence that the first or second preferred tenderers had declined or showed no commitment to the supply.

The Auditor General further states that there was no attempt whatsoever to show that permission was sought for the direct contracting method of procurement in this case, further raising questions on the decisions that prompted the misjudgment in overriding specified procurement procedure. “It was further noted that the machine for DNA profiling system was supplied on March 26, 2015, but was not yet installed and not in use at the time of audit in June 2016. The LMPS continued to outsource the services, which were to be gained from the acquired machine, resulting in uneconomic extra cost to the government,” said the Auditor General in her report.

She further warned that the unused machine might end up obsolete without benefitting the office which would translate to a loss to the government of Lesotho, further encouraging the management of the LMPS to consider value for money and to ensure that public resources, both human and financial, are used and managed “economically, efficiently and effectively to achieve the national goals and objectives”.

Critics feel there is very little pointing at possible legal action being taken against rampant violations of the public finance management laws by both members of the executive and civil servants. “We have to acknowledge that the Auditor General has done her job in revealing the abnormalities in the financial affairs of the state, maybe there isn’t much she can do or say beyond what her reports are recommending, but we have to cross this bridge if this country will be healed,” said Sofonea Shale, Director of the Development for Peace Education (DPE).

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